Hospital physicians' working hour characteristics and sleep quality: a cross-sectional analysis of realized working hour and survey data

Kati Karhula, Aki Koskinen, Jenni Ervasti, Tarja Hakola, Veli Matti Isoviita, Ilkka Kivimäki, Sampsa Puttonen, Tuula Oksanen, Mikko Härmä

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Background: Hospital physicians’ work includes on-call duties to provide 24/7 health care. Previous studies using self-reported survey data have associated long working hours and on-call work with sleep difficulties. To reduce recall bias, we complemented survey data with payroll-based objective data to study whether hospital physicians’ realized working hours are associated with sleep. Methods: The study was nested within the Finnish Public Sector study. We used survey data on 728 hospital physicians (mean age 43.4 years, 62% females) from 2015 linked to realized daily working hour data from 3 months preceding the survey. The associations of working hour characteristics with sleep quantity and quality were studied with multinomial logistic regression analysis adjusted for demographics, overall stressfulness of life situation, control over scheduling of shifts, and hospital district. Results: One fourth (26%) of the participants reported short (≤6.5 h) average sleep duration. Frequent night work (> 6 shifts/91 days) was associated with short sleep (OR 1.87 95%CI 1.23–2.83) compared to no night work. Approximately one third (32%) of the physicians reported insufficient sleep. Physicians with long weekly working hours (> 48 hours) had higher odds for insufficient sleep (OR 1.78 95%CI 1.15–2.76) than physicians with short weekly working hours (< 40 hours). Insufficient sleep was also associated with frequent on-call duties (> 12 shifts/3 months OR 2.00 95%CI 1.08–3.72), frequent night work (OR 1.60 95%CI 1.09–2.37), and frequent short shift intervals (≤11 hours; > 12 times/3 months OR 1.65 95%CI 1.01–2.69) compared to not having these working hour characteristics. Nearly half of the physicians (48%) reported at least one sleep difficulty at least two times a week and frequent night work increased odds for difficulties in initiating sleep (OR 2.43 95%CI 1.04–5.69). Otherwise sleep difficulties were not associated with the studied working hour characteristics. Conclusion: We used realized working hour data to strengthen the evidence on on-call work and sleep quality and our results advice to limit the frequency of night work, on-call shifts, short shift intervals and long weekly working hours to promote hospital physicians’ sufficient sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number943
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • On-call work
  • Payroll data
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Sleep quality
  • Working time

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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